The immeasurable significance of Holy Week is perhaps best attested by the amount of space given to recording its events in the gospels. From a total of 89 chapters in the four gospel accounts, 29 chapters are devoted to describing what Jesus said and did from Palm Sunday to Easter. Not only this, but each gospel is composed so the reader can clearly understand that there is an inexorable movement in Jesus’ life toward the cross and the empty tomb. For example, Matthew’s gospel reads this way, “From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised” (Matthew 16:21). Luke 9:51 says Jesus “set his face to go to Jerusalem.” John’s gospel refers repeatedly to Jesus’ “hour,” pointing ahead to his death and the glory that would be manifested.
This movement toward the death and resurrection of Jesus in the gospels mirrors similar patterns found throughout the Old Testament. Many of these Old Testament patterns may be found simply by asking questions in response to the situations recorded. Who is the seed of the woman who will crush the head of the seed of the serpent in Genesis 3:15? Where is the lamb for the burnt offering that God will supply in Genesis 22:7? Who is the descendant of David who will rule on his throne forever? Who is the servant of the Lord in Isaiah 53 who is despised and rejected, a man of sorrows?
Even as the Old Testament anticipates Jesus’ passion and resurrection, the New Testament books after the gospels work out the implications of Christ’s crucifixion and rising again. One example is Romans 6:8–11: “Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Many other instances could be quoted.
This emphasis in Scripture on the death and resurrection has profound implications for us as disciples of Jesus Christ. Here are just a few. First, by this means we are saved from our sin and the wrath of God. Romans 10:9 says: “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Second, our lives are to have a cruciform pattern. Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). Third, our future is based on Christ’s accomplishment: “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:19–22). Lastly, Christ’s death and resurrection shapes our worship of God: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!… To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!" (Revelation 5:12–13).
So, what is the purpose of the special services and concerts at Tenth on Good Friday and Easter? The author of Hebrews tells us: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1–2). Let us look and worship!
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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By Colin Howland. © 2023 Tenth Presbyterian Church. Website: tenth.org